Tucker Middle School student travels to Amazon Rainforest

Jonathan Thomas, a Tucker Middle School student, traveled to the Amazon Rainforest as part of the Frank Ski Kids Foundation. Photo courtesy of Tamara Thomas.

By Lucas Hill, contributor

Tucker, GA — Tucker Middle School student Jonathan Thomas traveled to the Amazon Rainforest in Colombia with the Frank Ski Kids Foundation for eight days from June 11-19. Thomas, a rising eighth grader who is 13 years old, was one of 10 Georgia teens from the ages of 13 to 15 to qualify for the trip.

The Frank Ski Kids Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to exposing kids to their futures through science, technology, athletics, and the arts, according to their website. The foundation, founded and run by philanthropist and radio personality Frank Ski, held a statewide contest to determine which teens would be chosen to travel to Colombia this year.

Participants in the competition were asked to write a 500-word essay on the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest, based on a document they were given. The top 20 essayists were then invited to the Georgia Aquarium, where they performed an oral presentation of their essay in front of a panel of judges and also answered questions. The top 10 – including Thomas – were then chosen to go on the trip.

Thomas’ mom encouraged him to try it out and enter the contest.

“I was already interested in environmental studies,” Thomas said. “So the trip was very exciting and cool for me.”

Thomas, who had never been out of the country prior to the trip, visited both Colombia and Peru within the span of eight days. He said he was the youngest of the group.

Each chosen participant received an all-expenses-paid trip. In addition to airfare, accommodations and meals, students also received clothing and shoes appropriate for their region of travel. The students in the rainforest were not accompanied by families, but learned under Frank Ski and Amazon specialists with field trips, classroom sessions, and hands-on experiences.

“I saw a lot of things – birds, plants, spiders – that I’d never seen before,” Thomas said. “I learned the culture of the indigenous peoples and the people who live in the rainforest…[I learned about] their experiences, and what they do in the rainforest. I also learned how the plants and animals impact the rainforest by doing what they do.”

Thomas’ mother, Tamara Thomas, said she is “so proud” of her son and his accomplishments.

“He came back all excited,” she said. “He wanted to make a difference in the world and bring what he learned about saving trees and the planet back.”

Thomas plans on learning more about deforestation, climate change, and the world in hopes that he can help in any way he can. When he grows up, he would like to be an aerospace engineer, but he said he will still have a connection to environmental conservation.

“I’m always looking for more stuff to do,” he said. “After my experience in South America, I feel more involved in my community. This trip changed me a lot.”

Frank Ski has held contests for similar trips for 15 years. Members of the trips have gone on to achieve great accomplishments in life. Four children who went on the same trip together were later all accepted into Harvard, with essays detailing their experiences with the Frank Ski Kids Foundation and the impact it had on their lives.

The Frank Ski Kids Foundation is supported by yearly fundraisers around the state of Georgia.

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